No one does spring like the Japanese. The moment winter says sayounara the excitement begins and numerous spring festivals attracting thousands of people from all over the world are organised across the country. From late March to early May, the cherry tree flowers a.k.a. sakura, reach full bloom, and with the gentle weather, festive mood and fun activities are happening constantly, it’s not hard to see why the land of the rising sun rocks at the most joyful of seasons.
Ireland has a blooming interest for the foods and drinks of Japan. Last year, a new range of sake was introduced in Dublin in the company of an actual Sake Samurai, and autumn also saw the opening of Bonsai Bar Dublin. This is not the only spot to have embraced the concept of “Japas” or “Japanese Tapas” as Izakaya also focuses on this ultra-shareable and inviting style of bite. And the love for all things Japanese is not growing only in the number of options, but also, premium is coming: Ichigo Ichie, the highly anticipated Japanese fine dining restaurant by the prestigious chef Takashi Miyazaki is expected to open in Cork this spring.
Where to go in Dublin to quench our growing thirst for Japanese tipples? The following are venues where you’ll be able to enjoy some of the finest drinks from Japan or inspired by it. Expect sake, cocktails with Japanese ingredients and Japanese whisky, or as they call it, ジャパニーズ・ウイスキー.
This boho chic bar has an eclectic menu with plenty of global influences. Its nod to the land of the sakura is called Tokyo Nights, a bittersweet tipple that combines Japanese whisky stirred with aperitif wine. This caramelly and chocolatey cocktail features Nikka All Malt, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, Crème de Cacao and Afrodite Bitters.
Where: 25 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2.
More information: thechelseadrugstore.ie
This glamorous venue is known for its wonderful G&T and jazzy evenings. But if you are thirsty for something different, they’ve a section in their menu called “Cocktails from Around the World” where you’ll find one named Musa Basjoo, an exotic combination of Nikka Pure Malt Black Japanese Whisky, Crème De Banana, pear syrup, lemon juice, egg white and cherry bitters.
Where: The Mint Bar at The Westin Dublin, College Green, Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2.
More information: themintbar.ie/en/home
If you love all things Japan, this place is a must-visit. Not only do they have a selection of different styles of sake and a very approachable menu, they’ve a handy guide to help you know what you’re getting into (strong, sweet, warm, chilled? you name it!). You’ll also find many cocktails with Japanese inspiration and flavours such as Anata Tengu, a fruity and sharp coupe of beautifully presented flavours. There is also a menu filled with tasty Japas!
Where: 12/13 South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2
More information: yamamori.ie/yamamori-izakaya
Enter this sleek bar and embrace the eternal hanami. They pour a dozen sakes of varying degrees of intensity and complexity (and their menu offers all the information you need to choose the perfect one for your taste). On the cocktail front, they mix ingenious combinations of Japanese and global flavours using ingredients such as sake, green tea, Japanese whisky and gin and even wasabi! Try their Geisha Tea for a modern blend of gin and the house green tea plus freshly squeezed lime juice and citrus foam.
Where: 17 South Great George’s St, Dublin 2
More information: tasteatrustic.com/bonsai-bar
This cool venue is one of the most popular spots for karaoke thanks to its private, soundproof rooms and extensive song selection. They have a sake menu with four different sakes as well as Shōchū (a rice spirit) and Japanese whisky. There is also a concise but tempting selection of sake-based cocktails such as the Cucumber Sake Martini, with offers a refreshing and unusual taste worth exploring.
Where: 9 Exchequer St, Dublin 2
More information: ukiyobar.com
This restaurant excels at offering dishes of Asian inspiration adapted to a global palate and when it comes to drinks, their talents are just as outstanding. You’ll find Japanese whisky (Nikka All Malt) as well as a few mixed tipples to please your nipponiac cravings: Plumchai Swizzle, with Plum wine, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, fresh mint, blackberries, Earl Grey syrup, lemon juice and lavender bitters is one not to be missed.
Where: 26-28 Clarendon St, Dublin 2 and 22 Upper Baggot Street.
More information: sabadublin.com
This little gem is hidden in plain sight across the street from the Ha’ Penny Bridge and once you step inside it, you’ll feel right as if you were in a cosy little eatery in the Japanese capital. Besides great value sushi, bento boxes and other traditional dishes, you’ll find a selection of Japanese drinks including Hakutsuru Sake (one of the most popular brands internationally), Sayuri Sake (a mildly cloudy and delicate sake with floral notes), plum wine and assorted teas. They also stock Japanese beers (Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo).
Where: 51 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
More information: eatokyo.ie
This modern and inviting restaurant is all about Thai flavours with nods to other Asian cuisines and global trends. Come for drinks and try their eye catchy Midori Sour, made with the famous Japanese melon liqueur of distinctive bright green hue and fruity flavour, Angostura bitters, kaffir lime syrup, green Chartreuse and egg whites. Fun fact, “midori” is Japanese for “green”, makes perfect sense!
Where: 6/7 Jervis Street, Millennium Walkway, Dublin 1
More information: koh.ie
Tengu is the name of both a mythical humanoid-bird creature in Japanese folklore and one of the coolest bars to get a taste of real flavours the country of the Samurai. Open late every night, it stocks an array of sake (they’ve a very approachable and easy to understand menu to help you find the sake for you) and Japanese beers and whisky. They also mix some seriously fab Japanese inspired cocktails.
Where: At the rear of Yamamori Sushi, Great Strand Street, Dublin 1
More information: yamamori.ie/yamamori-tengu
Another spot for both sushivores and those that want to sip on something different. Not only they serve sake, they have a sake cocktail menu filled with a dozen different tipples to choose from, from variations of popular classics turned Japanese to original, signature serves like their Midori Sake Kiwi, which combines kiwi, lime, sake and Sauvignon Blanc.
More information: 3-4 Bedford Row, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.